We open Episode 5 on Ford, doing what he was doing when we first met him in the premiere: having a chat with Old Bill in the sub-basement. He’s telling the old dog a story about an old dog—a racing greyhound who, one day, finally caught what he was chasing and didn’t know what to do next. It’s a poignant story about programming, robot, human, dog, and otherwise: what do you do when you finally get the thing you’ve been chasing? It’s a question with relevance to the happenings in the park, but more on that later.
First, I’d like to discuss what this scene suggests about what the Westworld showrunners are doing with time. As I mentioned earlier, Ford was talking with Old Bill in the first episode, the premiere. So is this a new conversation? Did Ford go back down to talk to Bill again? Or are they showing us the conversation Bernard and company walked in on in that first episode?
It’s a small question, perhaps, except for what it suggests about the linearity of Westworld‘s storytelling. Superficially, most scenes appear to take place in chronological order. But I suspect the writers are up to something a little tricky. We assume that the disparate storylines we see playing out are happening roughly simultaneously, but that isn’t necessarily so. For instance, there’s apparently a theory floating out there that William, the meek white-hatter squiring Dolores around, later becomes the sinister Man in Black, a longtime attendee of the park who comes to believe there must be more to it than what he sees. I don’t ascribe to that one myself, but I suspect the writers are doing something with the linearity—or not—of their storytelling.
As long as we’re on the Man in Black, let’s start with him. He gets rid of Lawrence and puts his blood into the ailing Teddy, believing that the gunman is now his best bet to get to Wyatt and, eventually, the maze. MiB shows a shrewd understanding of his companion’s drives here, motivating him by telling him that Wyatt made off with his beloved Dolores.
Presuming rough linearity, it’s a lie—Dolores is with William and Logan, headed into a lawless city named Pariah, run by bandits and Confederales, renegade Confederate soldiers who’ve become mercenaries in some sort of anti-revolutionary struggle down south. The trio meet up with Lawrence (evidence of non-linearity? If not, the park sure managed to patch him up and get him back into rotation quickly), who sends them on a mission stealing nitro for the Confederales.
There’s some double-crossing, an escape, and (because we all needed a reminder that we’re watching HBO) an orgy that puts Eyes Wide Shut to shame—but all of that is, frankly, window dressing for what’s going on with these three characters.
Dolores is experiencing increased breaks with reality—she sees herself in a Dia de los Muertos-esque parade, then sees another doppleganger across a tarot table. Meanwhile, she’s having flashbacks to some kind of past violence taking place around a church. I have no idea what any of this portends, but I suspect it may have something to do with Ford’s new storyline, and with Arnold, who (we learn in a tete-a-tete with Ford) tried to get Dolores to help him destroy Westworld. She didn’t, and Ford believes she’s content in her current loop—but how can he be so confident? Is it possible Arnold put something in her programming, a sort of time-bomb that would go off at the appropriate time? Is Arnold the voice in her head? Is he, from beyond the grave, causing her breaks with “reality”?
The relationship between William and Logan, meanwhile, continues to deteriorate. At the orgy (this is how you start sentences sometimes when you’re recapping an HBO show), they get into a fight over William’s unwillingness to go full black-hat with Logan. This exchange gives us a small sense of their lives outside the park—Logan is a creature of pure privilege, someone who’s been handed everything he has, whereas William is more of a middle-class striver who clawed his way to upper-middle management. Logan looks down on William; William looks down on Logan—and when the time comes to escape the Confederales, William happily runs off with Dolores and leaves Logan to his fate.
A minor subplot is dedicated to Felix, the robo-repairman who turns out to be a bit of a striver himself: he turns out to have dreams of ending up in programming, and moonlights honing his coding skills by trying to fix up a malfunctioning bird. The episode ends with him finally succeeding, only to turn around and find that Maeve—who’d been lying asleep on a operating table—is awake, and knows his name. Perhaps it will be she—and not Dolores—who will be the first of the hosts to truly pull back the curtain of Westworld.
Odds and Ends:
• How exactly does the extraction and insertion of hosts into the park work? Bernard and Ford seem to interview Dolores whenever they want to—but certainly they couldn’t whisk her away and put her back in the middle of her Pariah adventure without William and Logan noticing, could they? Does Dolores’s consciousness have multiple bodies? Or is this another way the show is playing with our sense of time and linearity?
• By my estimation, Episode 5 marked the first time we’ve seen male genitalia in Westworld.
• I didn’t quite catch what happened with the woodcutter’s body. People are using hosts’ bodies to…smuggle…lasers…or something?